Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1089

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Feature

Kathy Koskins: Naturally Inspired

Kathy Kosins @bluesandsoul.com PHOTO: Little Tootsie Music
Kathy Kosins @bluesandsoul.com PHOTO: Little Tootsie Music Kathy Kosins @bluesandsoul.com PHOTO: Little Tootsie Music Kathy Kosins @bluesandsoul.com PHOTO: Little Tootsie Music Kathy Kosins @bluesandsoul.com PHOTO: Little Tootsie Music

Internationally-acclaimed US jazz-soul singer/songwriter Kathy Kosins has this year returned to the scene with her new, sixth album “Uncovered Soul”. Which, produced by the Grammy-winning Kamau Kenyatta (best known for his production work on the 2016 Gregory Porter album “Take Me To The Alley”) and recorded in both Big City Recording in California and Nester Studios in Michigan, combines Kathy’s signature smoky and soulful vocals with a veritable melting-pot of accomplished and renowned musicians including pianist/organist Mitch Forman; bassist Kevin Axt; drummer Eric Harland; guitarist Gregory “G-Mo” Moore; trumpeter Curtis Taylor; and percussionist Munyungo Jackson.

Indeed, with the gently shuffling opening track “Don’t Get Me Started” due for single release in mid-June, musical moods on “Uncovered Soul” range from covers of obscure, little-known compositions such as a funky rework of Curtis Mayfield’s poignant “Ms. Martha”, an eerily evocative treatment of Paul Buchanan’s “The Downtown Lights” and a subtly swinging take on the once-Bill-Withers-recorded “Can We Pretend” (recently released on single with Brian Power remixes) to a handful of original compositions (co-penned by Kathy with long-time collaborator Jeff Franzel) including the mellow, undulating title-track; the revealingly autobiographical “A To B”; and the thought-provoking “If Love Could Talk”.

Born Kathy Ann Kosins in Highland Park, Michigan, Detroit-raised Kathy would interestingly spend much of her childhood around prominent music icons of the day while working at her father’s exclusive clothes store Kosins Clothes, whose clientele included many of Motown Records’ superstars and music personalities including Berry Gordy Jr., Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, The Temptations and The Four Tops. Following which Kathy’s own music career would begin with her working in local rock bands in the late-Seventies before in 1980 contributing background vocals to Detroit-based R&B/funk star Michael Henderson’s US Top 40 album “Wide Receiver”. Which would next be followed by her providing BVs for experimental Detroit dance/pop/rock outfit Was (Not Was) on their US-charting albums “Was (Not Was)” (1981); “Born To Laugh At Tornadoes” (1983); and the internationally-successful “What Up, Dog?” (1988). All of which, in turn, would lead to her becoming one of the most sought-after session singers in the region.

The early-Nineties meanwhile would find an ever-busy Ms Kosins becoming a full-time songwriter primarily within the fields of R&B, jazz and pop, though her career as an artist in her own right would not take off - despite her in 1987 having released through French label Carrere a one-off dance single entitled “I’ve Got The Night Off” - until 1996. When, with her songwriting having by now evolved into a more traditional jazz approach, she would release her debut album “All In A Dream’s Work” for the Michigan-based Schoolkids Records. Which would in turn mark the start of her career as a critically-acclaimed jazz singer/songwriter via a string of ensuing albums comprising 2002’s “Mood Swings”; 2005’s “Vintage”; 2012’s “To The Ladies Of Cool”; and 2013’s “The Space In Between.”

…Which in turn conveniently brings us back to the current release of ASCAP Award-winning Kathy’s sixth album, the aforementioned “Uncovered Soul”… Cue an articulate and forthcoming Ms Cosins - who also boasts a successful career as a modern abstractionist painter whose work represents visual interpretations of audio recordings by the jazz greats - meeting up for the first time with “Blues & Soul” Assistant Editor Pete Lewis over late-morning drinks at her spacious, state-of-the-art Chelsea Bridge hotel for a revealing and informative interview.

Titling her new album “Uncovered Soul”

“I titled the album “Uncovered Soul” not because of the title-track, but basically as a kind of two-sided coin. In that while “Uncovered Soul” does mean that I’m letting my guard down by uncovering and baring my soul with this record, it also means I’m going full circle by uncovering where I came from. You know, with this album I feel I am going back to my roots in that I think growing up in Detroit and being a city girl and having the grit of the city and that whole urban landscape around me did play a huge part in my musical upbringing. Which is why, when it comes to describing it, I definitely do like to use the word ‘Detroit-centric’.”

Bringing on board Grammy-winning producer Kamau Kenyatta this time round

“After I’d released my fifth jazz album “The Space Between” I really felt like I was at a fork-in-the-road in my career. Basically I have a brilliant business manager, and he was like ‘Kathy, jazz is such an elitist art-form and in America it’s shrinking a bit. They’ve cut back on acts for festivals, it’s getting harder and harder for the artists - so why don’t we take you back to your roots?’. So I was like ‘OK, why don’t I go back to my R&B beginnings, which is where I started in my career?’. So I began thinking about it, and while it was taking me about a year to hone in on song choices I happened to run into this lady-friend of mine - a really good bass-player who works with a lotta the groups in Detroit - and I was like ‘There’s this artist that I’m crazy about called Gregory Porter and I believe one of his producers Kamau Kenyatta used to live in Detroit - do you know how to get in touch with him?’. To which she was like ‘His mother’s my Godmother and he’s currently living in San Diego teaching jazz piano at the university’! You know, by this time Kamau had already won a Grammy for his work on Gregory’s “Liquid Spirit”. So I contacted him and, with his mother still living in Detroit, when he visited her at Christmas-time he came to my house, we sat down, we started talking, I told him my whole idea for the record and how, if I’m not writing my own material, I like to find really obscure, beautifully-written songs and then re-imagine them and re-construct them... And so because he liked my ideas he came on board and basically that’s what we DID! Like for example with the Burt Bacharach tune “Any Day Now” - which was written for Chuck Jackson in the early-Sixties - we completely de-constructed it so that it changed from being an upbeat pop record to a heartbreaking ballad. Then we worked on other songs like Paul Buchanan’s “The Downtown Lights”, Curtis Mayfield’s “Miss Martha”, the Bill Withers tune “Can We Pretend”, Amos Lee’s “Dreamin’” - after which I went to New York, where I collaborated with a couple of guys I write with out there. Which resulted in us coming up with new songs like “A To B”, Uncovered Soul”, “If Love Could Talk”… So yeah, in a nutshell that’s how Kamau came on board and how the record came together and ended up the way it did.”

The album “Uncovered Soul” is out now; the single “Don’t Get Me Started” is released mid-June, both through Membran Records.

You can read more from our exclusive interview with US jazz/soul singer-songwriter Kathy Kosins including the story behind her move into traditional jazz and the continuation through her four ensuing albums. Also, her childhood memories of working in her father’s exclusive Detroit clothes store, whose customers included the likes of Berry Gordy Jr., The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, etc... all in the current issue of Blues & Soul magazine - click the 'BUY NOW' link below to order straight from the B&S shop or read on for high street retailer details...

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ESSENTIAL LINKS:

TWITTER KKoskins

WEBSITE kathykosins.com/

FACEBOOK KathyKosinsMusic>

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Words PETE LEWIS

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